Letter: Stop snubbing Germany's goodwill

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Sir: To Nigel Jones (letter, 4 January) it seems "the absurdity of attempting to yoke together Scots and Sicilians, Swedes and Spaniards is self-evident." Not so in my field of science, theoretical physics. One nation is too small a unit. We yoke ourselves together across Europe for the sake of excellence. Twenty-six groups in 10 countries are currently collaborating on a research project on atomistic computer simulation of complex processes in solids, designed to help European industry keep competitive. Such collaborations have contributed to keeping Europe ahead of the USA and Japan in my particular field.

Also at stake are opportunities for young scientists to conduct high- quality research instead of being trapped in a multitude of mediocre backwaters. By and large Europe is chaotic, with an infinite number of barriers to effective collaboration. The collaboration I belong to is a real achievement, but it is just a tiny drop in an ocean of missed opportunities.

The EU is not to be equated with Europe, true, but in my experience Brussels is the major source of help in spite of its alienating arrogance and bumbling waste. In comparison, the European Science Foundation (covering all Europe) is much more efficient and user-friendly, but is almost pathetic in the tiny resources it is given.

Finally, at stake is the future peace of Europe. It is obvious that the bonds between peoples are not strong enough to hold us together in the face of any severe tension.

Professor VOLKER HEINE

Cavendish Laboratory

Cambridge

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